Tom Vander Ark on ???Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction???
Fordham released two important papers today as part of the Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series. The first, Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction, is by the co-directors of Public Impact. Bryan and Emily Hassel are the Malcolm Gladwells of education—they point to profound truths hiding in plain sight. In short, this is the best current description of the implications of digital learning on learning professionals.
The Hassel’s primary assertion is that in the age of digital learning, “Teacher effectiveness may matter even more than it does today.” I buy the argument that edtech will increasingly build basic skill but they run the risk of being trapped in a Rocketship Education rut—tech does easy stuff, teachers promote critical thinking. That’s one currently useful pattern, but innovative delivery models are advancing other alternatives.
Their conclusion that “The elements of excellent teaching that are most difficult for technology to replace will increasingly differentiate student outcomes,” may be projecting a bit of the individual practitioner past into a team based design-centric future.
The Hassels write about the implications for individuals but I’m a fan of design thinking—systems and cultures matter more than individual effort. Rick Ogsten has good teachers, but Carpe Diem is design success—it allows good teachers to get results.
In the “tech does the basics” vein and making the case for the super teacher they point to seven higher order dimensions that “distinguish excellent teachers from peers.” These include motivation, mentoring, self-management, and development of social skills. It’s true that adaptive software will help build math skills, but I’m equally enthusiastic about:
- Simulations that boost system thinking
- Self management tools that build productivity
- Social learning platforms that enable anywhere/anytime collaboration
- Motivational systems that boost persistence, and
- Decision support tools that guide post-secondary choices.
I generally agree with the suggestion that there are three ways tech will help with talent development: Extending the best, improving the rest, and inspire new talent to join the field. In my recent book, Getting Smart, rather than referring to teachers, I began referring to learning professionals to indicate a broadening array of career opportunities in and around teaching and learning. The Hassels point to a future with “a smaller, but much stronger and more highly paid” teaching force.
First a small caution (given the created hysteria about computers replacing teachers) that productivity gains will be small compared to manufacturing—education will remain a human services sector for the foreseeable future. Second, the proliferation of blended models and delivery strategies suggests that roles for learning professions will be more specialized (and model specific), there will be more levels (i.e., a career lattice), and a bit more distributed.
They announce that, “The digital revolution needs excellent teacher.” Instead, I’d say, “The shift to personal digital learning will leverage excellent teachers.” Rather than being trapped in a traditional schedule impacting 150 students, a great middle grade math teacher could lead a team serving 600 students in a blended format and produce resources that benefit thousands.
I agree with their implications for teacher evaluations, specifically that increasingly multiple people rather than a single teacher will contribute to a student’s learning. This suggests that school systems should plan on updating evaluation procedures at least every other year for a decade as new data and new models are introduced into the system. To that end, the Hassels call for flexibility in state employment policies, links to an updated funding system, and the need for a talent marketplace.
They close this important contribution with a call for courageous leadership. The leadership challenge will be a bit easier with the Hassels outlining the necessary dialog.
Category: Digital Learning
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